Sheep Health & Husbandry

Shetland Wool

A very important characteristic of the Shetland is their beautiful wool, upon which the world-renowned Shetland woolen industry is based. Shetland wool is one of the finest and softest of any British breed, with a Bradford count usually in the upper 50s to lower 60s and an average fiber diameter of 23-30 microns.

This soft, yet strong and durable wool is a delight to spin and is ideal for knitting. It was traditionally used in Shetland shawls so fine they could be drawn through a wedding ring!

Fleeces usually weigh between two to five pounds and have an average staple length of two to five inches. Occasionally, the wool will shed in late spring as it did generations ago when it was "rooed" or pulled off by hand.

Shetland wool comes in one of the widest ranges of colors of any breed. There are 11 main colors as well as 30 markings, many still bearing their Shetland dialect names. Besides the white, which dyes very well, other colors include light gray, gray, emsket (duskey bluish-gray), shaela (dark steely-gray resembling black frost), musket (pale grayish-brown), fawn, moorit (shades between fawn and dark reddish-brown), dark brown and pure black.

Unfortunately, many of these colors and markings have become quite rare as white wool is dominant and has historically commanded better prices.